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Chapter 6

PSY230H1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Tabula Rasa, Experimental Psychology, Social Learning Theory


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSY230H1
Professor
Dan Dolderman
Chapter
6

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Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research
PSY 230
!
Chapter 6
Behaviourist and Learning Aspects of Personality
6.1 The Classical Conditioning of Personality
Conditioning a Response to a Stimulus
classical conditioning — important principle discovered by Ivan Pavlov; when unconditioned stimulus
(which produces an unconditioned response) is paired with a neutral stimulus, the neutral stimulus
becomes a conditioned stimulus which elicits a conditioned response
generalization — when conditioned responses occurs in response to stimuli that are similar to the
conditioned stimulus (e.g. all buzzing insects scare child who was stung by a bee)
discrimination — when the subject can tell the difference between different stimuli (e.g. child only reacts
to buzzing of bees when he learns other insects do not sting)
Ancient Times
Middle Ages
Philosophers and theologian view individual deviations as games of gods or
possession by the devil, humans are seen in primarily religious terms
1700 - 1809
Individual is increasingly understood to be influenced by social class, Lock’s view of
infant as a blank slate (tabula rasa) increased emphasis on reason and rationality
1880 - 1909
Pavlov studies classical conditioning, other animal studies take place, Darwin’s
theories are applied to experimental studies
1900s - 1920s
Watson founds behaviourism, experimental psychology develops
1920s - 1940s
Skinner dramatically expands behaviourism, Hull develops broader learning theory,
experimental psychology is dominated by behaviourism; attempts to combine
behaviourism and psychoanalysis
1940s - 1950s
Influence of social psychology increases, child-rearing practices are studied, studied
of propaganda, attitude formation, and social structure
1950s - 1960s
Existentialists challenge behaviourists, cognitive psychology grows while
behaviourism declines
1970s - 1980s
Learning approaches increasingly combined with cognitive and social approaches;
personality seen as interacting with demands of social institutions
1990s - 200s
Ideas of conditioning and reinforcement integrated into other approaches to
personality

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Behavioural Patterns as a Result of Conditioning
many behavioural patterns are explainable by classical conditioning (e.g. drinking at parties
can be enjoyable or not depending on experience)
Pavlov’s constructs often provide a basis for explaining emotional aspects of the personality
such as phobias
Extinction Processes
extinction — when conditioned responses becomes less frequent as the association weakens until it
disappears over time
most people instead learn how to avoid their fears, thus this does not occur
Conditioning of Neurotic Behaviour
Pavlov was able to condition a response similar to neurotic behaviour in a dog
rewarded when presented with circle with no ellipse, gradually increased ellipse
when dog could no longer discriminate between the two, it displayed neurotic behaviour
related to children with unpredictable behaviours who develop neurotic tendencies
Complexities in Application of Conditioning Principles
modern research suggests classical conditioning is not as simple as Pavlov imagined
he assumed general rules were applicable to all animals, now known that different organisms
are more easily conditioned with certain stimuli (e.g. food does not work the same with
humans as with dogs)
however, still true that much of our learned patterns of responses come from anticipating the
consequences of our actions
!
6.2 The Origins of Behaviourist Approaches
-beginning of twentieth century, philosopher-psychologists (including Freud and Wilhelm Wundt)
studied psychology using subjective analysis of the human mind, asking people to introspect about
their thoughts or free associate to reveal unconscious processes
-many mythological difficulties with introspection
The Rejection of Introspection
behaviourism — the learning approach to psychology founded by John B. Watson that focus on
behaviour
rejects introspection, psychoanalysis as being unscientific and unobservable
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Watson from South Carolina, switched from philosophy to psychology; studied animals and
applied results to humans
Conditioned Fear and Systematic Desensitization
systematic desensitization — when a fear is gradually extinguished by slowly bringing the feared
stimulus closer and closer to the subject while pairing it with a calm and anxiety-free experience
virtual reality — ability to create simulated environments
initiation — the starting point for habits and addictions
Watson used Pavlov’s theories and applied them to the development of emotions
conditioned baby Albert to fear a rat, and generalized the fear (thus any neutral stimulus can
elicit an emotion, Watson believed this is what formed personality)
extinguished “Peter”’s fear of rats with systematic desensitization, now VR can be used
differs from psychoanalysis, which would try to determine cause of fear instead of simply
targeting the behaviour
Watson believed environment was ket to understanding a person, basis for Skinner
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6.3 The Radical Behaviourism of B.F. Skinner
-Burrhus Frederick Skinner was born in Pennsylvania, taught Puritan work ethic, virtues, and morals
-as a child, constructed various machines and was interested in animal behaviour
-believed who he was as a person was a result of the rewards and punishments he experienced
(reinforcement) as a child
-tried to be writer, wrote poems for Robert Frost; decided to study psychology to improve writing
-concluded that environmental events, in particular the consequences of behaviour are responsible for
most behaviour
-thus, environmental conditions must be understood to understand behaviour
-endeavoured to explain behaviour without referencing physiology or interval personality constructs
Operant Conditioning as an Alternative Description of Personality
operant conditioning — when a behaviour is changed by its consequences (i.e. organism “operates” in
the world and learns a behaviour via reinforcement)
shaping — the process by which undifferentiated operant behaviours are gradually changed into a
desired behaviour pattern by the reinforcement of successive approximations
deterministic — theory in which there is no free will
Skinner became animal trainer and used operant conditioning to shape pigeon behaviour
theories focused on function of behaviour, not structure of personality
no place for internal components of personality, physical structures (id, ego, superego), traits,
self-actualization, needs, or instincts
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